When State Policies Meet Local District Contexts: Standards-Based Professional Development as a Means to Individual Agency and Collective

CIERA Report #3-022

Elizabeth Dutro, University of Washington
Maria Chesley Fisk, University of Michigan
Richard Koch, Adrian College
Laura J. Roop, University of Michigan
Karen Wixson, University of Michigan

CIERA Inquiry 3: Policy and Profession
How does a statewide reform initiative, when envisioned as a professional development opportunity, affect teachers' capacity to become change-agents in their classrooms and districts? How do individual district contexts shape the development of those capacities?

This article focuses on how a statewide reform initiative, when envisioned as a professional development opportunity, affected teachers' capacities to become change-agents in their classrooms and districts, and how individual district contexts shaped the development of those capacities. The interview and artifactual data used for this study were gathered from teachers and administrators in four demonstration districts that were involved in a standards-based professional development initiative within the federally-funded Michigan English Language Arts Framework (MELAF) project. These data reveal that teachers experienced changes in their personal literacy practices and views of themselves as learners, and felt an increased ability to evince change in a variety of educational contexts, including their classrooms, buildings, and districts. Across these changes in teachers' practices, district patterns emerged that spoke to the individual districts' capacities to support





teacher growth and foster reform. These differences suggest that the changes that took place were a function of many factors, including the size and structure of the district, the district's "readiness" for change, and the source of language arts leadership within the district. One implication is that particular histories and competing forces on both the individual and district level help shape the implementation of new policy.


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This paper is currently in press at the Teachers' College Record.

Note: The authors contributed in various ways to the development of this paper and the professional development project that it considers. Karen Wixson, Laura Roop, and Richard Koch designed the professional development effort; Laura and Richard were key players in facilitating the sessions. Elizabeth Dutro and Maria Chesley Fisk joined the project at the data analysis stage, after the professional development phase was complete. All authors participated in analyzing the data that were collected over the course of the project and contributed to the written manuscript. Authorship is listed alphabetically.